Strategies for Making Your Dream Job a Reality
Fantasies can come true. Just ask Ann Krcik, a rock climber who dreamed about quitting her marketing-operations job to work with fellow adventurers in the great outdoors. She made the leap by launching a Salt Lake City, Utah, firm that represents “extreme” athletes, signing them up to appear in commercials, and as models and motivational speakers.
“I wanted more freedom to climb than my two-weeks-a-year vacation,” says Ms. Krcik (pronounced crew-sick), whose work now takes her to mountain ranges throughout the Western states. “It was a fantasy I made come true.”
By definition, fantasies are imaginary pursuits that emerge mostly during boring meetings and long commutes. Yet they tend to represent deeply held values or beliefs, such as living a simpler or more exciting life. While your dreams may seem overly romantic and impossible to attain, you can make them come true with the right attitude and a blend of determination and skills, say career advisers.
First, be sure your dream job is financially feasible. “Most people have to realign themselves mentally to re-engineer their lifestyles,” says San Francisco, California, career counselor Joe Meissner. Decide whether you really need a big house, six new suits a year and frequent meals at expensive restaurants, he says. While abandoning an affluent lifestyle may shock your system initially, the realization that you can live without many luxuries “is empowering, and will release a wave of creative energy.”
Most job fantasies reflect one of seven personality types just waiting to break free of corporate bonds, says Chicago, Illinois, psychotherapist Arlene Hirsch. For aspiring career changers, these dreams likely have captured their imaginations since childhood, but only now are they able and willing to realize them. The seven most popular fantasies are:
- Hitting the open road. Jack Kerouac types dream of finding freedom traversing the country. Like the Illinois scientist who says he’d gladly give up his “life of the mind” to drive a “big rig,” these folks relish simplicity and independence.
- Risking it all. Adventurers such as Ms. Krcik and her clients hunger for physical challenges, perhaps even to live life on the edge.
- Letting creative juices flow. Artistes seek greater self-expression than their work offers, so they passionately pursue writing, painting, sculpting, acting and music.
- Embracing a tropical paradise. These folks are motivated by place and a calmer, less-stressful existence. That describes David Dean these days, whose job and marriage hit the skids. But instead of scanning the classifieds for apartment rentals and job leads, the real-estate investment adviser daydreamed about great trips he’d taken through the years to Costa Rica. “So I got in my car and started driving south,” says Mr. Dean, who now works in shorts and a sport shirt from his mountainside townhouse near San Jose, the capital.”It’s very friendly and laid-back here, and while it’s not Tahiti, everyone I know who visits is wowed by the spectacular scenery and comfortable climate,” he says. “And the business opportunities are great.”
- Benefiting society. Idealists hope to help others through personal nurturing while shunning the profit-oriented goals of big business. For instance, when Tim Barnes’ retail brokerage firm was purchased, he accepted a substantial buyout and enrolled in a one-year program for aspiring teachers.”I find it much more rewarding to motivate seventh graders than it was handling securities problems,” says Mr. Barnes, who now teaches social studies and English at New York’s Academy of Environmental Science in Harlem. “It’s a constructive change of focus that can really boost your self-image.”
- Returning to their roots. Nature lovers embrace life’s basic ingredients, such as growing their own food and living in a rural or small-town environment.
- Staying close to family. Homebodies want to maintain control over their lives and close relationships with their spouse and children. Jan Roobian started acting on her entreprenurial instincts two years before quitting her job with Wells Fargo’s executive-banking department in San Francisco to launch a home-based business.”My fantasy was to give up wearing ‘Betty Banker’ suits, playing politics and commuting every day,” says Ms. Roobian. To that end, she saved scrupulously and enrolled in company-reimbursed business courses in accounting and finance.
As the bank began streamlining, Ms. Roobian was chastised for performing special services for high net-worth customers. But those duties now form the core of Roobian & Co., which helps wealthy clients manage their financial households.
“I handle it all, from paying their bills to their kids’ allowances, and I do it on my schedule,” she says, which means most workdays don’t begin until after she’s tucked her daughter into bed. “I can spend the whole day with her if I want, and it’s wonderful,” says Ms. Roobian, who’s also started a children’s arts and crafts studio. “I temped at first to pay the rent when money got tight, but it’s all worked out beautifully.”
No Bed of Roses
Of course, even fantasies have drawbacks. “Leading a fantasy life appears to bring blissful happiness,” says Ms. Hirsch, author of “Love Your Work and Success Will Follow” (John Wiley & Sons, 1996). “But succeeding in your new life requires clear thinking to understand that reality isn’t always as idyllic as you might expect.”
Ms. Roobian admits that she hasn’t had time for an extended vacation since launching her venture. “I work around my customers’ needs, which means no three-week getaways. But I have lots of three-day weekends.”
Mark Evans has a different concern. The former public-library administrator in upstate New York says he truly enjoys his new life traveling the country selling memorabilia at collectibles shows, a long-time hobby. “I was fed up with fighting the state for funding to offer basic services,” he says, so he quit three years ago when his office was merged with another 50 miles away. “I love the things I sell and the people I meet.”
Yet Mr. Evans admits that his business is at the whim of the economy, so when spending tightens, he’s among the first to feel the pinch. “I’m hopeful that business will improve in the new year,” he says. Would he consider returning to library work? ” No way. What I’m doing now is what I do best — and enjoy most.”